Officials say priest attacks menorah in Moldova

AP News
|
Posted: Dec 14, 2009 12:35 PM

Dozens of people led by an Orthodox priest smashed a menorah in Moldova's capital, using hammers and iron bars to remove the candelabra during Hanukkah, officials said.

The 1.5 meter(5-foot)-tall ceremonial candelabrum was retrieved, reinstalled and is now under police guard.

Police said they were investigating the Sunday attack but there was no official reaction from Moldova's Orthodox Church, which is part of the Russian Orthodox Church and counts 70 percent of Moldovans as members.

The U.S. Embassy and Chisinau city government condemned the attack. City officials called on the church to investigate. The head of the church, Bishop Vladimir Cantarean, was at his mother's funeral in Ukraine on Monday and was expected to make a statement when he returns, the church said.

The national government said in a statement that "hatred, intolerance and xenophobia" are unacceptable.

Jewish leader Alexandr Bilinkis called on the Orthodox Church to take a position over the priest's actions.

The Jewish community was thriving before World War II but there are now estimated to be just 12,000 Jews in the former Soviet Republic. Twenty years ago there were 66,000 Jews. Many emigrated to Israel.